Dykes begins his critique by complaining about Popper's tone of assurance.
One thing which is quite certain is that Popper wrote with absolute assurance of his own rectitude, as I think the quotations in this paper reveal. For all his belittlement of knowledge and certainty, I have never read anyone who wrote so many books all imbued with such conscious certainty and authority— the authority of one who knows.Dykes appears to be annoyed by the fact that Popper never prefaces all his remarks with the phrase I suppose or I conjecture. Of course, it would be very tedious to proceed in this way. Dykes also takes Popper to task for declaring "I am not a belief philosopher. I do not believe in belief" while at the same time refusing, in other places in his work, to stop using the phrase I believe to state one of his positions. Here Dykes shows himself deaf to the ambiguity of language. Popper's phrase "I don't believe in belief" plays on two senses of the word belief to make a point. In the first sense of the term Popper is using it to describe certain belief, in the second, the sort of conjectural belief Popper supported. In other words, Popper is simply saying that he doesn't believe (in the conjectural sense of the term) in certainty.
Dykes unquestioningly accepts the Platonic view that equates knowledge with certainty, asserting that all denials of certainty are "self-contradictory," because "in the absence of certain knowledge one is either forced into a position involving some kind of unfounded conviction, belief or faith, or into scepticism." Says who? Dykes here make use of an oft-repeated Objectivist fallacy: the either-or fallacy, where we are given the choice between the Objectivist position and several unappetizing alternatives. But who says that the only alternative between certain knowledge is unjustified belief and skepticism? What about probable knowledge? What about degrees of reliability? If one knowledge claim can be regarded as superior to another, isn't that good enough for practical purposes?
Some of Dykes criticisms demonstrate a lack of familiarity with Popper's ideas. He accuses Popper, for instance, of refusing "to have anything to do with definitions." This is an exaggeration. Popper accepted scientific, or nominalistic, definitions; he simply has no use for essentialist definitions — another matter entirely. I can find no evidence that Dykes understands this distinction, or has any idea why essentialist definitions, and the scholastic mythology that has grown-up around them, deserve the criticism and scorn Popper directed at them.
Dykes essay particularly flounders when he attempts to explode Popper's critical rationalism by associating it with the views of Kant and Hume. He repeats the Objectivist canard that Hume's "whole argument" is in conflict with the Law of Identity. Alas, this misses the point entirely. Hume's argument is not directed at the Law of Identity, but at our knowledge of specific identities. How do we know which attributes of an object are constant and which are not? This is not a question which the Law of Identity can answer. Reminding ourselves that objects have identities is nothing to the purpose if we don't know, or can't be sure, what those identities are.
Dykes is equally clueless when it comes to Kant. Because Popper believed that all observations are "theory impregnated," Dykes assumes that Popper regards all theories as prior to experience, and even wonders whether Popper is "asking us to accept that the heliocentric theory came before observation of perturbations in planetary orbits?" Again, however, Dykes has missed the point. When Popper asserts that observations are "theory-impregnated" he is merely noting how hopeless it would be for an empty mind, bereft of any presuppositions or "theories," to make sense of observations. As Kant put it, "Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions [i.e., sense experiences] without concepts are blind." Regardless of whatever confusions and pendantries Kant may have stumbled into trying to elucidate this paradox in the Critique of Pure Reason, the principle itself constitutes one of the seminal insights of epistemology, easily corroborated by common experience and scientific investigation. I wonder if Dykes has any familiarity, let alone understanding, of it. Or does he believe that facts can be understood without any prior theories at all? Hardly a plausible position, if so. After all, how can a blank mind ever make neither heads nor tails of the bewildering complexity of sense experience, without at least some prior heuristic to guide it? It can't. So some measure of theory does appear to precede fact. How, then, on a realist framework, are we to account for this? Popper at least deserves credit for taking this issue seriously and trying to provide a non-idealist, non-Kantian solution to it. Since Dykes does not even appear to grasp that this is what Popper is attempting to do, his criticism is worthless. One cannot effectively criticize what one doesn't understand.
And that seems to be the over-riding problem of Dykes critique. His understanding of the problems Popper attempts to solve is minimal, at best. His attachment to Randian categories of interpretion has rendered him hopelessly naive in the face of problems originally posed by Hume and Kant and later elucidated by Pierce, Santayana, Popper and Polanyi. His outlook is still trapped in the scholasticism of Plato and Aristotle.